Jurassic World, 2015
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Judy Greer, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson and B.D. Wong
Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly.
There are members of a certain generation who will vividly remember going to the cinema in 1993 to see Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and be blown away by the sheer majesty and epicness of it. Now, twenty-two years later, we have what some might call the first “direct” sequel to that movie. The park is now open, but is Jurassic World worth the price of admission?
Rather than follow the plot points of The Lost World: Jurassic Park or Jurassic Park III where you set it on the island where the dinosaurs are bred, Jurassic World takes place in a fully working and functional theme park. John Hammond’s dream has become a reality, as people travel from far and wide to see these prehistoric creatures brought to life through the magic of science. But sadly, dinosaurs are now as common as an elephant in a zoo, and therefore aren’t the breath-taking attraction they once were. In an effort to bolster their profit, Jurassic World head honcho Claire (Dallas Bryce Howard) puts into motion the idea of breeding a new species of dinosaur to bring in new punters. The newly named Indominus Rex however is so much larger, scarier and deadly than any of their other creatures – and it’s manged to escape its captivity. Aided by velociraptor expert Owen (Chris Pratt), Claire goes on a mission to not only save her nephews who are trapped in the park, but stop this monstrosity from destroying Jurassic World and killing everyone inside.
Jurassic World is a Jurassic Park movie made in 2015. Audience’s tastes for what a summer blockbuster should be have changed a lot since 1993 and this is clear as day when you put the two films side by side. It’s bigger, it’s louder, it’s more bombastic and it’s heavy with CGI dinosaurs that are ready to jump into your laps courtesy of the 3D IMAX experience. And what better way to show how audiences have moved on from Spielberg’s vision then to introduce a new hybrid dinosaur that will act as this movie’s villain, rather than use the tried and tested T-Rex from the first two movies.
This is actually one of the biggest obstacles Jurassic World has had to overcome since its announcement and first trailer. Along with Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, Jurassic World may be the most-hated-before-anyone-has-seen-it-movie of 2015; with the Indomious Rex being just one of the Internet’s complaints. Cries of Chris Pratt leading an army of raptors, CGI park gates and 70s sexism running wild were among the shouts of anger from the keyboard warriors, who damned the movie before a single frame was shown publicly. But, as with anything in movies, these are moments taken in isolation that actually play much better when the whole film is laid out in front of you. Chris Pratt and his ‘raptor squad’ is no different than a SeaWorld trainer working with Shamu, and the film goes out of its way to show how highly dangerous and stupid this idea is. These raptors are not his friends, and they will kill whomever they deem fit. The new dinosaur plays perfectly into the Twitter generation mentality of ‘give me something new’, when actually a lot of ‘older stuff’ still holds up to this day (something else the film highlights brilliantly). And the scene between Pratt and Dallas Bryce Howard that upset Joss Whedon could be taken as a horribly sexist scene singularly, but in the movie it acts as another step in the character growth of Claire. Of all the characters in Jurassic World, she has the most interesting journey, but you have to take those steps to get there. The film is not perfect in its gender politics (the children take more to Owen than Claire because he’s a badass and she isn’t), but this is again all part of her character progression.
The CGI on the other hand is a different story. Colin Trevorrow doesn’t borrow from the Spielberg playbook of barely showing the dinosaurs for maximum scares, as he’s not afraid to show them off in all of their CGI glory. Literally from the first frame of the movie, Jurassic World marks its territory by saying, “there will be no puppets in this film because we can do this with computers now”, but this does come at some cost. For while the dinosaurs may look real, they never feel real. Nothing in Jurassic World feels tangible and while the park feels open and alive, nothing inside it does. Furthermore, for all of the thrills and spills he produces in the action sequences, Jurassic World is missing that truly spectacular moment. It doesn’t have an edge-of-your seat sequence like Lex and Tim hiding in the kitchen in Jurassic Park or Julianne Moore balancing on cracking glass while hanging off a cliff in the sequel. It doesn’t even have that jaw-dropping moment when Grant and Ellie look out over the plains at a group of Brachiosaurus moving in a herd with that swelling John Williams score. Trevorrow certainly does try of course, even using Michael Giacchino’s re-scoring of Williams’ epic soundtrack to drive the emotion home, but he doesn’t hit the mark. In fact, some of the earlier moments of the film when he uses the iconic Jurassic Park score are incredibly slapdash and a little amateurish.
But Trevorrow doesn’t fail in his direction, as Jurassic World does feature some incredibly exciting action set pieces. The film doesn’t break from action for too long and there are plenty of beats where the Indominous Rex is tearing through Jurassic World at a (sometimes literally) break-neck pace. Jurassic World succeeds in being scary enough, and there will be some moments that will have kids leaving the cinemas in dire need of changing their shorts – and even parents might want to check themselves upon exiting the theatre. The movie also succeeds in making the death of characters – no matter how insignificant they are – seem important. The loss of life matters in this movie and its never glossed over or shied away from like some modern-day action movies. It feels as though Trevorrow would have liked to push the boundaries of a PG-13 or 12A rating a little further, but he certainly takes the certificate to its limit. Suffice to say, Jurassic World does not shy away from people being eaten by hungry dinos. The sequence with the pterodactyls escaping their atrium is fantastic and superbly directed with Trevorrow never reducing himself to quick-cut editing, allowing the audience to witness everything that is happening.
But while he does a great job in showing us all the action, Trevorrow doesn’t get these best from his actors, who all just do ‘fine’. Chris Pratt is not at his Guardians of the Galaxy best and actually feels like he’s in auto-pilot for a lot of the runtime. He had one job: look cool – which, to his credit, he does. Dallas Bryce Howard, who has the most to work with from a character stand point, is probably the best showing in the film, but is nothing to write home about. Sadly, the tremendous Vincent D’Onofrio is not on Daredevil-form here (and seems to have a tan that changes from scene to scene), but is a pretty serviceable human villain. If anything, the most surprising performance comes from B.D. Wong, who reprises his role as Henry Wu from the first movie. Gone is the mild-mannered scientist from Jurassic Park, and in his place is a slimy mad scientist who will stab you in the back at a moment’s notice.
While this review will not go into any spoilers (for obvious reasons), I would be remiss if I didn’t mention just how fantastic the final act of the movie is. Any quibbles, complaints and problems you may have with the movie (prior to watching and during) will be washed away during this phenomenal conclusion that brings together all of the points the film was raising to a tremendous degree. This – this right here – this is worth the price of admission. Is it a CGI-fest? Of course it is. But it’s a spectacular CGI fest that will have you grinning from ear to ear – particularly if you have an affinity for the original movie.
Jurassic World does not hold a candle to Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, but it’s actually a lot better than you would think based on the trailers. Not only that, but it’s actually better than both Jurassic Park III and The Lost World. There are so many fun nods to the first movie, but it holds up as its own adventure and doesn’t cling on and reference the 1993 classic at every turn in order to get a winking nod from its audience (I’ve probably mentioned Jurassic Park in this review more than the film does). In short, Jurassic World is the sequel Jurassic Park truly deserved. And while it’s far from perfect, it is a huge amount of fun that will thrill and entertain both fans of the series and newcomers to the franchise.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.
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